‘Time, it doesn’t matter’ – Bill, the ex-lighthouse keeper, Ardnamurchan Point.
In a remote and rainswept tent, on a most remote and windswept peninsula, I awake after a night of strange and intense dreams. A combination of oscillating emotions, fatigue, and heavy intake of cheddar has shaken up my psyche.
I’m surrounded by ferns, their delicate fronds flickering in the morning’s easy breeze, but little else: a farmhouse in the far distance, a telegraph pole behind me, and the slither of a road ahead. I pack up and follow the single-track trail I’ve slept nearby, somewhere between Kilchoan and the very end of the mainland, a place called Ardnamurchan Point. It’s a bumpy track that passes the occasional field of sheep but otherwise rocks along an ancient landscape, unspoilt by KFC drive-throughs or Argos distribution centres. Occasionally some rallying bit of graffiti appears on the broken road: ‘nearly there!’ ‘go go go!’, remnants of some fun-run once? Otherwise the landscape is wild yet peaceful, a pleasure to rove up and down in the gentle and dry morning.
The narrow road eventually reaches its an end at the foot of a lighthouse and a traffic light, one that feels almost like a sarcastic joke in this most remote and undisturbed of places. It ensures that in the extremely rare event of two vehicles attempting to pass each other on the bridge to the building, no accident ensues. Well, caution is the aim here. Ardnamurchan Point is the most westerly point of the British mainland, and a small visitor centre by the lighthouse makes the most of this fact. Inside, a local girl from nearby Kilchoan sells me a ticket of admission and tells me of her enjoyment of life here. Her accent is sweet, soft and light, much milder than those one hears elsewhere in the Highlands.
‘Not everyone could do it. It’s his choice, he loves it.’ John on John, on the island of Johns, also known as Cape Wrath.
I could gaze at this view forever. Scatter my ashes here. This is a longer post, but the sights, stories and scenes ah, it’s worth following!
It’s 8.30am. At different times in my life, I’ve spent this time cattle-trucked on morning tubes and trains, fellow passengers arguing and fighting, stress and frustration sweating from people’s shirts and ties like a miasma of tolerated suffering. Or buses caught in interminable south London traffic, making me late for school, then university, some arsehole’s music blaring at the back from his phone. Or in the last year, dodging blind taxi drivers and the horsey wives of the rich in Chelsea tractors along the south circular to my current university on this very same bike besides my tent today.
‘Different man, different times, different days.’ – three men, comparing the potential consequences of a new hairstyle, Alnwick.
Imagine what perfect harmony would look like it. Sometimes it feels like one stumbles across it in nature, particularly in the wild countryside of the eastern coast I’ve been journeying through. The symmetry on the wings of a moth, the intricate yet always regular swirls on the shell of a snail, or the regularity of wildflowers and trees that wither and bloom each year, from life to death, and back. Even the ancient bricks of different shapes and sizes that each form an unlikely bond together into an old farm wall, marking field from field. Each of these is an odd but effective compromise of chance and opportunity.
I’m starting to wonder if all my politicking about improvements to the communities I pass through has been swayed by some deluded vision of perfect harmony. What makes the dark humour I come across so refreshing is that it assumes the worst and makes the most of it. It’s shit round ere, but … or British weather! or You avin a laff, goin round Britain on that thing?
It doesn’t assume that the given situation would get better, yet in laughing about it and mocking the vanities of oneself and one’s surroundings, it supplies one with a power to overcome adversity with a tough-headed laughter.
The movements of humans suggest a taste of perfection. The whirling Zikr dances of Chechen Sufis are one extraordinary example. Great numbers of men gather together and dance in varying speeds in a large circle. Quickly they become one as a group, following the speeds and movements of the person ahead, moving about in different rings. They chant the names of God as they move, spinning about uncontrollably. The self disappears in this mystical tradition.
‘Sell your cleverness, and buy bewilderment’.
So says Rumi, Sufi mystic and poet. I need to abandon myself more into the unknown before offering up any easy solutions. And possibly take up morris dancing…